16 So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Can you imagine the scene? A Roman executioner lays a crossbeam behind Jesus as two soldiers thrust Christ to the ground quickly penning each arm against the splintered beam by placing their knees on the inside of his elbows. With the blood-drenched crown of thorns pressing against His torn scalp, the executioner probes Jesus’ wrist to find the little hollow spot – and once found, he presses a square-cut iron nail to each wrist. Then, with hammer raised, pounds the nail-heads with such force it rips through flesh nailing the Christ to the beam. Once set, the soldiers work in unison by grabbing each side of the beam to lift this man heavenward until His feet are just off the ground – immediately causing His body to writhe in even greater pain as gravity began to inflict its torment. Then, once the crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner kneels before the cross as the other two soldiers hurry to help with each one taking hold of a leg at the calf. The ritual was to nail the right foot over the left. Now this was likely the most difficult part of the work – for if the feet were pulled too far downward, then the prisoner would die too quickly. But not to fear, for over time, the Romans had learned to push the feet upward on the cross, so the condemned man could lean on the nails and stretch himself upward to breathe – thus procrastinating his torture and prolonging his life.
Chuck Swindoll describes the likely torment.
Excruciating pain accompanied every upward push for breath and every downward release from fatigue. Each movement cut deeper into bone and tendons and raw muscle. Fever inevitably set in, inflaming the wounds and creating an insatiable thirst. Waves of hallucinations drifted the victim in and out of consciousness. And in time, flies and other insects found their way to the open wounds. At this point, Jesus knew He had accomplished everything the Father had sent Him to do. To fulfill one last Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.
Simply stated – the cross is none other than the most sinister and painful way to save the world. And yet it was God’s way to atone for sin. God’s holiness and justice made the cross an absolute necessity for the forgiveness of sin. Each and every event of the crucifixion was required so that Jesus might be unmistakably identified as the promised Messiah and the single solution to the problem of sin. In fact, no fewer than (20) Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled within the 24 hours leading up to Jesus’ death – many of which coincide with Psalm 22.
These last three words Jesus spoke that glorious day are the heart of the good news. Matthew and Mark testify that Jesus proclaimed them not as a word of defeat but as a shout of victory – It is FINISHED! Jesus exclaimed a cry of victory in the hour of seeming defeat. Personally, I imagine Jesus words reverberated much like Mel Gibson’s words in Braveheart – when at death’s door, William Wallace cried out “FREEDOM!” for in His death, Jesus had completed in full all the Father had given to Him. He left nothing undone – leading us to freedom from sin into an eternal and earthly relationship with God.
The phrase – it is finished(tetelestai) means that it has been and will forever be accomplished. It signifies the absolute completion of the work of Christ to make full atonement for the redemption of the creation – a declaration of victory. The word denotes the intentional carrying out of an assigned task, calling, or Divine obligation. Jesus knew His hour was completed and the consequences of His work would be enduring because the debt of sin was now PAID IN FULL!
Max Lucado expressed this well.
The history-long plan of redeeming man was finished. The message of God to man was finished. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth were finished. The task of selecting and training ambassadors was finished. The job was finished. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sacrifice had been made. The sting of death had been removed. It was over – paid in full.
So what does it mean that Jesus paid it all and that it is finished? First, it means that the mission was fulfilled and sin was atoned.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purificationfor sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Jesus provided the purification for sin. Sin was atoned. Our ransom was paid in full. And now forgiveness is available to all who will believe in the Son. Read again the last part of this passage — After he had provided purificationfor sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. The Greek aorist tense indicates that Jesus accomplished purification for sins once and for all. But Jesus death did not just make it possible, but effectual.
What does effectual mean? It means that on the Cross, while Jesus died to set all men free from sin and redeem the entire fallen creation to Himself – he only secured the forgiveness of sins for all who actually believe and seek His forgiveness. Thus, while forgiveness is available to all, it will only be experienced by those who turn from their sins to Christ by grace through faith. Purification is for the repentant. For catharsis to take place our stain of sin has to be washed by His blood. This requires His work on the cross to be met with our faith in His grace.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleansesus from all sin. 1 John 1:7
Jesus paid it all – and all to Him I owe. Sin has left a crimson stain – He washed it white as snow.
This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 Jn. 4:9-10
Second, His death and victory of sin satisfied the justice of the Law as God’s wrath was appeased.
Don not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
The issue of the Law has always been difficult for people to understand. Whether it is by nature we think we have to meet a certain standard to earn God’s favor or maybe we think the way into God’s heart is by keeping the rules – the Law has long vexed the heart of man. Yet the intent of the Law was never to save but to redirect every person to the redemptive grace of God found in Christ. It was to establish a standard to reveal to all people they were sinners in need of a Savior.
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:16-21
Thus Jesus did not come to get rid of the Law but to complete where the Law fell short.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26
The Law condemned us all exposing us for who we really are – sinners in need of God’s amazing grace. But through the finished work of Christ on the Cross – to those who believe and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins – God’s wrath has been appeased and the Law of sin and death has been satisfied through His atoning death.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, b/c through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do b/c it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4
Finally, through Christ finishing the atonement and satisfying God’s wrath, the enemy was defeated and Jesus delivered the deathblow to Satan.
So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15
From the very beginning, since the Fall, God promised Satan of his defeat. And at the Cross, Jesus delivered on that promise. And the result is not only that Satan is defeated in the future, but that we too now have the power to overcome the wiles of the devil.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:7-8
So as you enter into this resurrection weekend, do so in the full knowledge that IT IS FINISHED! And let us never forget that it is by His stripes alone that we are healed. For we trample the blood of the Son of God if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. Why? It is because the only explanation for God’s forgiveness and for the unfathomable depth of His forgetting of our sins is the death of Jesus. Our repentance is merely the outcome of our personal realization of the atonement which He has worked out for us. Thus, it does not matter who or what we are; there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Christ and by no other way – not because Jesus pleads for us, but because He died for us. Therefore, His grace is not earned, but accepted (by grace through faith). And as a result, all the pleading which deliberately refuses to recognize the Cross is of no avail; it is battering at a door other than the one that Jesus has opened. So know this truth. God does not pretend that we are all right when we are all wrong. His single solution to the problem of our sin is the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross as our propitiation whereby God, through the death of Jesus, makes an unholy man holy. So let us never forget that the greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30).
These three words are the final word in the redemption of humankind.